Monday, March 12, 2018

Maple Bark and Maple Syrup Beer

Black maple bark harvesting.I'm suspicious of any "maple" beer that smells more like maple syrup than actual maple syrup does. The aromatics in real maple syrup just aren't that potent when diluted 10:1 and then fermented. Many breweries add some maple syrup (so they can put it on the label), but bolster it with extracts or maple-flavored coffee beans. Fenugreek is another, more natural, option used to flavor imitation syrups. Another approach is to add maple syrup to the chilled beer to preserve sweetness and flavor, but it doesn't make much simple sugar to overwhelm the usual beer balance.

Two years ago when I brewed my third Adambier (recipe) I added 1 quart of dark maple syrup to 5 gallons along with a cup of bourbon. The maple flavor was relatively subtle (tasting notes). After reading The Homebrewer's Almanac, I wanted to try their technique of harvesting maple bark, toasting it, and then adding it to the boil. I found the opportunity a year ago when I visited my parents. Ideally I would have used bark from a sugar maple, but the black maple in their yard was good enough for a first try.  I picked a spot that didn't have much moss growing on it and chipped off a small patch.

When I got home, I toasted the two ounces of maple maple bark in the oven until aromatic, 55 minutes at 350F. I then simmered the bark in two quarts of water for 60 minutes uncovered. After a few test blends, I opened the keg of Adambier and added one quart of the resulting liquid into about 3 gallons of beer.

Beautiful nitro pour on the maple Adambier!Double Maple Adam

Smell – The nose has a deep blend of vanilla and caramel. The bourbon and maple work synergistically, but it doesn’t have the obvious maple flavor. Raisins or prunes are starting to come out as faint signs of oxidation. Smoke is mild, a subtle background flavor giving the beer a savory quality.

Appearance – The body is nearly opaque dark-brown, but there is clear amber right around the edges. Tight tan head. Despite the year sitting pressurized with beer gas, the head retention is good but not great. With the high alcohol (including fortification) that may be the best I can hope for.

Taste – The woodsy-vanilla flavor I got from the maple bark in present in the flavor. I could see some people confusing the slight butterscotch note with diacetyl, but I get that in the syrup as well. Smoke plays with it back and forth in the finish, more defined than the nose. Sweet thanks to subdued hop bitterness, but not sticky. Alcohol warming is mild, despite the ~11% ABV (diluted from 12% by the bark-water).

Mouthfeel – Rounded thanks to the low carbonation and creamy head.

Drinkability & Notes – It’s a unique beer. Layers of flavors that make it a strong beer that is for savoring. That’s what I want in a ~11% ABV beer, something that would be impossible to achieve at a moderate ABV.

Changes for Next Time – I’d like to try the same technique with sugar maple bark to see if that flavor is a little more reminiscent of maple syrup. That said, this worked out well as is! Maple bark isn't the only bark that works, when I visited Scratch Brewing they had a beer with toasted oak bark on that had a coffee-like note. They suggest hickory, cherry, and cedar bark too.

I also took the book's suggestion to make my own imitation maple syrup by boiling the remaining 3/4 cup of maple-bark extraction with 1.5 cups of table sugar until it reached 219F. The amber syrup has a strong vanilla-woodsy flavor, and it works nicely (especially in savory applications). Not quite real maple syrup, but more interesting than pancake (aka telephone pole) syrup!

I recently stumbled into which is a user generated map of foragable plants. Taking the bark off a tree can be hazardous to the tree, so make sure you clear it with the person or better yet take it off a dead tree.

Maple bark syrup

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sapwood Cellars: Cheater Hops NE DIPA

Scott and I are still pushing forward towards opening Sapwood Cellars; here's a post with our January progress. In February we've started refinishing the tasting room floors and procuring tables and chairs while we wait on equipment and licensing. That said, the biggest influence on our brewery's success may be the fate of the competing bills to change Maryland brewery laws. Paste has a good write-up. In addition to their legislative work in Annapolis, the Brewer's Association of Maryland also throws occasional beer festivals. We decided to make their Love Thy Beer: Winter Warmer Showcase our public launch. Luckily for us they pull a license that allows new unlicensed breweries to pour homebrewed test batches.

Scott brewed a split batch of NEIPA, Oat Pillows was dry hopped with Simcoe, Mosaic, and Nelson, while Concentrated (recipe post) was ramped up to DIPA territory with the addition of white wine grape concentrate and wine yeast then dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc. Both were delicious, and the wine contribution to Concentrated really worked nicely.

For Cheater Hops, my contribution, I wanted to push big flavors hoping to make it stand out in a small pour. I went on the small-end of DIPA (or the big-end of IPA) to enhance the body and mouthfeel. My pre-boil gravity was a little lower than expected, so I extended the boil. Taking a cue from this NEPA, I went heavy on hot-side Simcoe and Columbus. To increase the citrus aroma I fermented with Imperial Citrus, their version of Sacch Trois (I especially appreciate their larger pitching rate compared to White Labs on this one), a yeast I'd used in Modern Times Neverwhere and this Juicy Pale Ale.

I dry hopped the half of the batch I brought to the festival with two of my favorite varieties: Citra and Galaxy! For the half to have on tap at home I tried Belma for the first time, which is usually described as strawberry, with Moasic as a counter-point. In both cases I added a first dose of hops late-fermentation and another in the keg. Rather than cooling the keg right away as I usually do, I primed each with sugar and 1 g of CBC-1, rehydrated. This strain was selected to only ferment simpler sugars and work incredibly quickly, scavenging oxygen, allowing a week of warm storage to increase hop aroma extraction. That said, 6 oz in each dry-hop mesh tube was really pushing their capacity, 4-5 oz is likely as much as I'll add in the future.

At kegging I added 1 mL of Kalsec Hexalone to each. In addition to being foam-positive, this isomerized hop extract also increases the perception of a "rounded" body. Eventually I'll have to do a side-by-side-by-side with Tetralone (used in this Stonefruit Vanilla Nitro Sour), and without any extract to get a better sense of the contribution. Kalsec markets Hexa is as Head Master, but the price and large size make it less practical for homebrewers.

One topic that has seemingly garnered more discussion among commercial brewers than homebrewers is "hop creep." Certain hop varieties (e.g., Mosaic) contribute enzymes that free fermentable sugars. This can cause problems. If most of the yeast has already been crashed out, the few remaining cells can resume an unhealthy fermentation, often leaving diacetyl. When I was in California several brewers dialing in their NEIPAs mentioned 58F as the "magic" temperature for dry hopping; warm enough for good extraction but cool enough to inhibit the yeast. I wonder if some of these unfermented simpler-sugars contribute to the perceived sweet "juiciness" of the finished beer? In this case the gravity dropped of the half with Mosaic/Belma dropped to 1.018 in the keg while the Citra/Galaxy keg was stable at 1.020. The result was a couple foamy pours until I vented the head-space sacrificing a portion of the aroma on the Mosaic/Belma.

For the Citra-Galaxy half I wanted to bring a "clean" keg to the festival to avoid stirring up the yeast and hop-particulate, so right before heading out I filled a clean keg to the brim with StarSan and pushed it out with CO2. This removes (nearly) 100% of the oxygen, better than pressurizing and venting multiple times, while using less gas. I then jumped the beer over using the process I outlined in this post.

The festival itself was a big success! Our rebuilt jokey-box poured well, we didn't run out of beer, and we met a lot of locals who were really excited for us to open. The beers were all well received from the comments we got, and I'll take a 4.34 on Untappd for this batch.

This video follows the process from making the yeast starter until we poured it at the beer fest!

Cheater Hops: Citra-Galaxy

Smell – Really big and bright: mango, tangerine, and pineapple. Smells Has a few green-notes, but not overtly grassy. The yeast supports those tropical and citrus notes from the hops without being obvious or phenolic. Minimal malt. Doesn’t have the “rawness” of hop aroma that some of my NEIPAs without keg conditioning have.

Appearance – Good head, but not spectacular. I’m not sure how valuable the isomerized extracts are in beers that are already so loaded with hops. They seem more valuable in sour beers which lack substantial hopping. Good level of haze, in fact hazier than most of my recent batches. Nice light yellow color with just a hint of gold.

Taste – Similar hop/yeast character to the nose, bright tropical fruit. Really saturated through the palate. Slight malt sweetness supports those flavors. Firm bitterness, in the finish, but not hop-burn on the throat.

Mouthfeel – Pleasantly full and fluffy. Carbonation is a little low on this one because I forgot to repressurize the keg after pouring it at the beer fest.

Drinkability & Notes – One of the best DIPAs I’ve brewed. The hops work together perfectly, I don’t “miss” the Citra and Galaxy on the hot-side. No dramatic color change when I left a small amount out overnight, thanks to no oats?

Changes for Next Time – Not much to change, really terrific hoppy beer that is worth the extra couple points of alcohol.

Cheater Hops: Mosaic-Belma

Smell – More subdued than the other half, perhaps thanks to venting the head space of the keg a few times. The aroma is more berry than tropical, but still has indistinct citrus notes. Doesn’t seem any greener despite still sitting on the keg hops, while the other is in a clean keg.

Appearance – Identical. I’d heard that Galaxy is especially haze-positive, but in this case both are plenty hazy without being murky.

Taste – Comes across as slightly more bitter. Maybe more hop-material in suspension thanks to the keg hops? The hop flavor is more strawberry here too, although the Mosaic prevents it from being too far from the usual. It’s a good flavor, but not as compelling.

Mouthfeel – Similar body with a little more carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – Good, but not one of my favorite batches. Still has a nice hop flavor, but the aroma doesn’t call me back for another sip like the best DIPAs.

Changes for Next Time – The Belma shows promise, but might be better at 25% of a hop blend rather than 50%. A way to add unique flavors without having to carry the aromatic load.


Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 4.5
IBU: 103
OG: 1.073
FG: 1.020/1.018
ABV: 7.0%/7.2%
Final pH: 5.53
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71%
Boil Time: 105 Mins

80.0% - 27 lbs Rahr 2-row Brewer's Malt
11.9% - 4 lbs Briess Flaked Wheat
5.9% - 2 lbs BestMälz Chit
2.2 % - 0.75 lbs Breiss Crystal 10

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 156F

4.00 oz Columbus (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ 15 min
6.00 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 9.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
4.00 oz Columbus (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.20% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min

2.00 oz Belma (Pellets, 9.80% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3
2.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3
3.00 oz Belma (Pellets, 9.80% AA) @ Keg Hop
3.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 ml Hexalone (Extract, 50.00% AA) @ Keg

2.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3
2.00 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3
3.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
3.00 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.00 ml Hexalone (Extract, 50.00% AA) @ Keg

16 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
9 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
5 tsp Lactic Acid @ Mash
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min


Imperial #A20 Citrus

Brewed 1/14/18

Made a 2.5L starter on 1/12/18, yeast was 6 months old, but it started working quickly. 24 hours on a stir-plate.

All hops 2017 Harvest, except Simcoe (2014).

11 gallons filtered DC, 6 gallons of distilled for the mash. All salts and 2 tsp of lactic acid at the start. Measured pH at 5.51 (at mash temp), added 2 more tsp of lactic acid to 5.29, and 1 last tsp to 5.25 (~5.4-5.45 at room temp).

Collected 16 gallons of 1.060 wort. Extended boil to achieve target gravity. Chilled to 70F, shook to aerate, pitched.

Fermentation internal temperature relatively steady at 67-68F internal.

1/17/18 Dry hopped both halves in primary, loose.

1/26/18 Transferred both to kegs with the additional doses of dry hops and 1 mL of Hexalone. Also added 3 oz of table sugar and 1 g of rehydrated CBC-1. Left at 65F to carbonate. FG on both is 1.020.

2/3/18 Moved both the the kegerator and attacatt to gas.

2/15/18 Jumped the Citra/Galaxy half to a keg that I had filled with StarSan and then pushed out with CO2. Served at Love Thy Beer: Winter Warmer Showcase.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

American Oat Ale: Brew-Day Dry Hop Experiment

When we open sometime this summer, Sapwood Cellars' clean beer program will be focused on
hops... but don't mistake that to mean we'll have eight IPAs on tap at all times! One recipe-concept I'm working on is a hoppy beer for people who don't like IPAs. The idea of low bitterness, a little extra yeast character, and integrated citrusy aromatics from the hops. A gateway hoppy beer for the sort of craft beer drinker that usually orders a wit or shandy.

We'd like to keep our yeast situation simple to start. I'm a big fan of Allagash Hoppy Table Beer, which is fermented with their house wit strain. While that is appealing (and I've brewed a few delicious hoppy wits before) we likely wouldn't get enough use of a liquid yeast to justify it. There isn't a dried wit strain available, but I was inspired by a post about a supposed blend of dry yeasts used by Tree House (big shout-out to HBT's Isomerization): S-04, T-58, and WB-06. I kept the fermentation temperature at 60F ambient to restrain the yeast expression; I just want subtle fruitiness mingling with the hops... no banana-boat. Although I have had good luck with hoppy hefeweizens as well...

For the rest of the recipe I revisited an old favorite, Simpsons Golden Naked Oats, in hopes of providing a creamy mouthfeel in this moderate-gravity beer. For hopping, I opted for partial-chilling to 185F before the whirlpool addition to reduce alpha acid isomerization imparting more hop aromatics with less bitterness. I used Citra and Amarillo through-out, a callback to one of my all-time favorite recipes that I helped develop: Modern Times Fortunate Islands!

The big question I wanted to answer with the a split-batch was: how valuable is a brew-day dry hop compared to a now-standard late-fermentation addition? I added 2 oz of Citra and 1 oz of Amarillo to one fermentor immediately following the yeast, while the other had to wait for the same dose until day four of fermentation. The resulting difference is relatively subtle, however everyone I served the beers to blind has identified the late-dry hop as more hoppy/aromatic... but that isn't necessarily what I'm looking for in this beer! In terms of measurements, the timing of the dry hop did not appear to have an effect on the FG or pH.

After my first attempt at filling a keg through the dip-tube resulted in a clogged poppet several people suggested adding a Bouncer Filter in-line between my SS Brew Bucket and the liquid-out post. I bought one, and it worked like a charm catching the hop particulate large enough to cause problems. No complaints!

Here's a video of this batch from brewing to drinking!

Sapwood Session

Brew Day Dry Hop

Smell – Fruit salad, banana and melon. Mild toastiness from the oats.

Appearance – Hazy yellow. Not cloudy or murky, but not as hazy as many NEIPAs. The Golden Naked Oats didn’t add much color compared to my standard recipe. Head retention is OK, lacing is better.

Taste – Strikes a good balance between yeast and hops, with fruity flavors mingling from both to create something vaguely tropical. No big phenolic spiciness from the T-58 or WB-06, but I can taste a touch of clove as it warms. Not as bitter as the 40+ calculated IBUs would suggest thanks to the lowered whirlpool temperature.

Mouthfeel – Surprisingly thin considering the chloride, oats, and moderate attenuation. Carbonation is medium, where I like it for hoppy beers.

Drinkability & Notes – Really pleasant blend of styles and flavors. These are my favorite arguments against holding too closely to styles, even relatively new and broad ones.

Changes for Next Time – Still need to find a solution to the body being thin, but otherwise it is pretty close to what I envision for this beer. A good technique for adding more hot-side-type aromatics without additional iso-alpha.

Late Fermentation Dry Hop

Smell – Hops jump out more, vibrant and a little green. The two beers have converged a bit as they’ve sat on tap, but are still distinct to me. The Amarillo helps to temper the Citra, but

Appearance – Similar, although just a hair hazier. White head is the same.

Taste – The yeast is more obscured thanks to the outsized role the hops play, no clove. The Citra and Amarillo really shine: melon, orange, and tropical. The malt is also relegated to the background, preventing the beer from tasting like “hop water” but without a really distinct contribution.

Mouthfeel – The body is similar, although the later hops provide slightly more tannic bite. Identical carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – This one kicked first, but I also shared a few more growlers of it. I enjoyed it a bit more, even though it wasn’t exactly what I was going for!

Changes for Next Time – This is the better timing for a classic hoppy beer. It provides a more vibrant aroma, and there was no issue with oxidation despite being at the tale of fermentation.


Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 5.3
IBU: 41.9
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.017/1.017
ABV: 5.4%
Final pH: 4.33/4.31
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

48.0% - 12 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
25.0% - 6.25 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
17.0 % - 4.25 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
10.0 % - 2.5 lbs BestMälz Chit

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 156F

Whole Batch
6.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ 30 min 185F Steep/Whirlpool Hop
3.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.20% AA) @ 30 min 185F Steep/Whirlpool Hop

Brew Day Dry Hop Half
2.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 0
1.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.20% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 0

Late Fermentation Dry Hop Half
2.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 4
1.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.20% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 4

17.00 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
12.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
3.00 tsp 88% Lactic Acid @ Mash


1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

2.0 pkg SafAle S-04 English Ale
0.2 pkg SafBrew T-58 Specialty Ale
0.2 pkg Safbrew WB-06 Wheat Beer

Brewed 12/17/17

Mash pH measured at 5.2 at mash temperature. Collected 14 gallons of 1.049 runnings.

All 2017 crop hops.

Cooled whirlpool to 185F before adding whirlpool hops. Added heat to maintain that temperature approximately.

Chilled to 64F and pitched the yeast (Each got: 11 g S-04, 1 g each T-58 and WB-06). Half got 2 oz of Citra and 1 oz of Amarillo with the yeast.

Left at 60F ambient to ferment.

12/21/17 Dry hopped the second half with the same amounts. Fermentation appeared nearly finished. Warmed both to 65F.

12/29/17 Kegged both halves, first time using the Bouncer filter. Smooth filling into the purged kegs. Attached to gas in the kegerator. Both measured FG 1.017, Brew Day Dry Hop 4.33, Late Dry Hop 4.31.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

10 Year Old Courage RIS Clone

A torch passing of sorts. With the bottles of my 2007 batch of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone running out I rebrewed the recipe (with a few tweaks) in 2015. I’ve labeled the caps from 2017 to 2050, so this marks the extension of my now decade-long Christmas tradition!

Watch me drink the two beers, or read my thoughts below. If you've got any comments on the videos (other than my microphone induced v-neck) let me know!

Courage RIS 2007

Smell – Fantastic mixture of deep/dark Port-like fruitiness and rich caramel. Roast is subdued, more coffee than a Quad or Belgian Strong Dark, but not by much. Brett provides subtle leathery notes, but it isn’t obvious with everything else going on. I could pass it off as "age" if I hadn't brewed it.

Appearance – The head is soap-sudsy, the bubbles are larger than expected. Nearly pitch-black body. When I returned for a second pour it came with hard bits of desiccated yeast. Should have poured it all to start!

Taste – Similar to the nose, rich and full of plums, figs, caramel, and light roast. The Brett lingers softly in the finish. Leather, and maybe a little cherry. Harmonious, really balanced thanks to the added attenuation by the Brett. Minimal hop bitterness thanks to the aging. Still tastes remarkably fresh compared to big stouts I’ve brewed more recently, thanks to the metabisulfite.

Mouthfeel – Smooth and full, without being sticky. Low carbonation, perfect for a big dark beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Would have opened another bottle if it was an option. One of my favorite batches of homebrew to date.

Changes for Next Time – As close to perfection as I can imagine creating in a big-dark-funky-fruity-historic stout! I don’t know what Courage Russian Imperial Stout tasted like 100 years ago, but I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t this good!

Courage RIS 2015

Smell – Fresher and more apparent English-maltiness. That brown malt provides a coarse toasty note that clashes with the bolder Brett funkiness. Comparatively mild caramel and dark fruit.

Appearance – Darker, denser, creamier, longer-lasting head. Part of that is higher carbonation, and the rest is likely freshness.

Taste – Coarser, with burnt toast, Brett-funk, and oak competing for attention. There are some nice flavors there, and the fresher-brighter-cleaner biscuity and roasty notes are pleasant. Hopefully with time the oak will mellow and the Brett and malt will balance.

Mouthfeel – The carbonation disrupts the smoothness, especially when combined with rough tannins from the oak. Hopefully the latter will mellow, and swirling helps with the former. Not sure if I was unsuccessful at killing the Brett, or if I simply over-primed (or had attenuation from the bottling strain).

Drinkability & Notes – It’s OK, but still young, rough, and discordant. It has a lot of time to improve, and I'll be disappointed if it doesn't!

Changes for Next Time – Hopefully time is all that is needed, but would be hard not to revert to the original recipe if I were to brew this again… especially on a larger scale!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fresh Juniper Saison with El Dorado

Eastern Red Cedar tea.I really enjoy beers brewed with local ingredients, but local grains and hops have never been at the top of that list. In both cases local usually doesn't mean fresher, higher quality, or more variety. Often the opposite is true, and for double the price. Conversely, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs are naturally advantaged over their nonlocal competition. They are at their best immediately after harvest and include varieties not suitable for shipping. Buying fresh in these cases is often less than the shelf-stable versions (although that means more processing for the brewer).

For this batch of rye saison I opted for a blend of hops and grains from around the world, paired with freshly harvested juniper (Eastern Red Cedar) from my backyard. This was my second batch using trimmings from that tree, after the more traditional Summer Kveik earlier in the year. The other half of this batch went on to be a rye pale ale, dry-hopped with Galaxy and I didn't want juniper in that beer. To avoid splitting the boil I added the juniper as a tea, rather than directly to the mash or wort.

I wanted a more complex and substantial malt backbone to counter the aromatic hops and juniper, so pale malt and rye made sense. Big quality-of-life upgrade from my old Barley Crusher to my new Monster Mill 2Pro-SL. Not far from this saison brewed a few years ago, but with spelt flour replacing the wheat malt. Fermentation was carried out by my house saison culture.

It was also my first batch using the Genesis Fementer that Brewcraft USA sent for me to try out. It features a pre-santized bag to ferment the wort in. It made clean up easy, but I found the bag annoying to work with otherwise. It took some effort to get it fluffed up enough to get the tubing down into it for run-off. I also found it difficult to see where my auto-siphon was for racking. In the past all of my fermentors had either been clear (glass and plastic carboys) or had a wide opening to allow me to see down into the fermentor to know when to tilt or stop to avoid sucking up trub.

This batch also has my second video, a bit abbreviated compared to the first and with slightly better audio thanks to a new microphone!

Fresh Juniper Saison

Dry-Hopped Brett Saison with Fresh Juniper.Smell – Nice mixture of generic American-hop-fruitiness and saison yeast pepper. Mild Brett-pineapple, but still fresh. Juniper comes across more naturally piney, no big apricot as I’ve tasted in a few beers brewed with boil-addition Eastern Red Cedar. Maybe has to do with an interaction with the malt? Seasonal flavor-change?

Appearance – Nearly flawless saison; glowing gold with a luscious white head. Leaves rings of sticky lacing with each sip.

Taste – The hops and juniper meld beautifully, reinforcing each other. Slight maltiness in the finish, thanks to the rye malt. Juniper comes out most in the finish, especially towards the bottom of the glass. Woody, green, not like toasted oak (no vanilla or toasted nuts).

Mouthfeel – The extra proteins and beta glucans from the rye and spelt combine to provide some substance to the body. Carbonation is a little low, would have been fun bottled. At first it had sort of a resiny harshness to the finish, thankfully that has dropped out.

Drinkability & Notes – Weird, but not too weird. Surprisingly drinkable with a good balance of hops, herbs, and funk.

Changes for Next Time – Would like to try it with juniper in the mash/boil to see how it changes the expression.

Monster Mill 2Pro-SL on the left, Barley Crusher on the right.Recipe

Batch Size: 5.75 gal
SRM: 3.6
IBU: 36.3
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.9%
Final pH: 4.12
Brewhouse Efficiency: 79%
Boil Time: 60 mins

68.2% - 7.5 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7% - 2.5 lbs Weyermann Rye Malt
9.1% - 1 lbs Arrowhead Mills Spelt Flour

Mash In - 60 min @ 154F

1.50 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 6.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
1.50 oz Citra (Pellets, 9.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
1.50 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 10.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
0.50 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 11.00% AA) @ 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz El Dorado (Pellets, 15.00% AA) Dry Hop

7.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
1.50 tsp 88% Lactic Acid


1 Pint Juniper Tea:
    1 gallon of Water
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 60 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 30 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 10 mins
    40 g Eastern Red Cedar @ 0 mins

Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

All DC Filtered water for mash and sparge. Mash pH 5.29 at mash temp. Collected 6.75 gallons of 1.050 runnings. 1 gallon of distilled water added pre-boil reduced gravity to 1.045.

For the juniper infusion, brought a gallon of water to a boil with 40 g of Eastern Red Cedar. Boiled for 60 minutes with 40 additional grams at 30, 10, and flame-out. Allowed to chill naturally with the juniper still in there. Added 2 cups to the saison half (~25% of the resulting amber liquid).

Amarillo/Citra/Simcoe in the boil was all 2014. Galaxy was 2016.

Saison with my house culture, directly from fridge (honey saison).

Left both at 68F to ferment.

11/26/17 Dry hopped the saison with El Dorado. Still in primary. Warmed to mid-70s ambient.

12/7/17 Kegged the Saison and started force carbonation in kegerator.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cherry Wine: Flanders Red Recipe

Spent dried sour cherries in Flemish red.When it comes to adding fruit to sour beer I've long advocated waiting, both on the blog (and in American Sour Beers). This serves two purposes. First, it delays the decision point, allowing the brewer to taste the unaugmented beer and decide the optimal treatment for each carboy or barrel (blend, fruit, dry hop, drain etc.). Second, it allows you to drink the packaged sour beer while the fruit aromatics are still fresh and vibrant. But is that approach sacrificing anything?

Talking to Scott about his "two season" peach sour, and hearing the approaches at a few breweries (e.g., Wicked Weed - Red Angel has 1 lb per gallon of raspberries in the barrels at three weeks and then 3 lbs more per gallon at the end) got me thinking. Early fruit allows for yeast-interactions before the pH falls far enough to inhibit those enzymes; theoretically it could produce a richer perhaps "jammy" fruit profile. Reserving a portion of the fruit could adds back those aromatics that would be oxidized or volatilized by the end of aging.

The base beer for my first attempt at the technique was a Flemish red. The recipe is not far from numerous beers I'd brewed before except for two notable tweaks. I used American Munich/Vienna instead of European. I used pre-aged "Lambic" hops from Yakima Valley in hopes of pushing some of the fruity depth they can provide.

Homegrown sour cherries.While I enjoy cherries in pale lambic-type beers, they can easily dominate the subtle malt profile. I've had good results with them in sour reds in the past, and wanted to try staggered additions. I opted for Scott Labs 58W3 wine yeast for primary fermentation. A previous Flemish red had done well with another wine strain, and I hoped that given this strain was selected to free aromatics (bound terpenes and glycosides) from wine grapes, it might benefit the cherries. For ease of timing and considering that all of the bright-fresh aromatics are already gone, I added dried sour cherries a month into souring. Russian River adds dried sour cherries to the Pinot Noir barrels for Supplication along with the Brett, so I was in good company. As I usually do, I rinsed the dried fruit briefly in StarSan to remove the oil that prevents them from sticking.

Sour and dark cherries waiting for beer.Souring was provided by dregs from De Garde Saison Facile. And I can say without question they did a much better job than the other half of the batch with Wyeast Roeselare (no tasting today as it has a strong sulfur character).

Once the dried cherries had given their all, I racked onto a 2:1 combination of homegrown sour cherries and farmer's market sweet/dark cherries. I have read and heard from several reliable sources (Wild Brews and Dave Pyle) that the sour cherries of Belgium are somewhere between sweet and sour cherries in America.

The attendees to my February Sour Beer BYO Boot Camp in San Diego will have a chance to taste this beer (and blend it with several of my other dark and cherry sours) as those in Indianapolis did in November! The early bird $100 discount only runs through 12/15.

Cherry Wine

Finished beer under our cherry tree.Smell – The homegrown sour cherries really shine. It smells like the defrosting bag of fruit. Light spice, almost cinnamon, something I’ve gotten in the past from dried sour cherries. Not much malt coming through.

Appearance – Clear garnet. The base beer without fruit is red, the cherries provide depth and push it more burgundy. Small light-tan head, good retention.

Taste – The fruit flavor is true and saturated... jammy. The various types of cherries adding depth without muddling the overall fruit impression. Firm lactic acidity, with added sharpness from the fruit. The malt doesn’t have the oomph I expect from that amount of Munich and Vienna. Not much Brett character, but it does have more funky-depth than a kettle sour. A touch of perceived sweetness lingering with the fruit and almondy pits.

Mouthfeel – The high FG provides some substance to the otherwise crisp profile. Solid carbonation, not too much.

Drinkability & Notes – A showcase for cherries without being only about the fruit. One of the best cherry sours I’ve brewed. Saturated with fruit, and good balanced acidity. I’ve been enjoying this and it has been going quickly as I've been nervous that the gravity finished higher than I expected.

Changes for Next Time –  Maltiness could be firmer, will likely switch back to Weyermann for the Vienna and Munich. I'd get my timing better and add the dried cherries to the carboy before I transfer the beer in.


Clear wort pumped into the kettle.Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 13.9
IBU: 13.3
OG: 1.062
FG: 1.018
ABV: 5.8%
Final pH: 3.27
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

37.0% - 5 lbs Briess Borlander Munich Malt
33.3% - 4.5 lbs Briess Goldpils Vienna Malt
18.5% - 2.5 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewers malt
7.4% - 1 lbs Weyermann CaraRed
3.7% - .5 lbs Weyermann CaraAroma

Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

2.00 oz YVH Lambic (Pellets, 2.00% AA) @ 90.0 min

5.5 g Calcium Chloride
.5 Whirlfloc Tablet


1 lbs Dried Sour Cherries
3 lbs Sour Cherries
1.5 lbs Dark/Sweet Cherries

Scott Labs 58W3
De Garde Saison Facile Dregs

Recipe adjusted to reflect only half of the batch tasted here.

Brewed 2/19/17

Collected 7 gallons of 1.056 runnings from 8 gallon mash with 5.5 g of CaCl, and 1.5 gallon cold water sparge.

YVH lambic/aged hop pellets.Lambic hops from Yakima Valley Hops. Bagged. No idea on AA%, wort had almost no bitterness.

Chilled to 62F, shook to aerate, pitched 8 g of BM45 in one half, 5 g of 58W3 in the other. No other bugs, yet. Left at 70F to ferment.

3/5/17 Racked both to secondary.

BM45 - 1.026, pitched a pack of Roeselare

58W3 - 1.032, pitched De Garde Saison Facile dregs.

Left at ambient basement temperature, ~60F.

4/8/16 Added 1 lb of dried cherries to the 58W3 half. Rinsed in StarSan to remove any surface oil (more than sanitation).

7/21/17 Racked the 58W3 half onto ~3 lbs of sour cherries (half homegrown) and 1.5 lbs of sweet cherries. Frozen and defrosted, purged with CO2. Left the dried cherries behind.

10/1/17 Bottled both halves with rehydrated Pasteur Champagne. 4.75 gallons of each, 97 g of table sugar, aiming for 2.3 volumes of CO2. The non-cherry half had a slight sulfur aroma and foamed oddly during bottling.

Cherry 3.27 pH and FG of 1.018 (higher than I expected although it did drop considerably from when it was transferred).

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